Around 250 years ago our world experienced an industrial revolution. Measures were put in place to ensure the population had key skills to service this time in history and school education as we know it was born. The subjects of English and Math were prioritised as companies needed staff who could at least read, write and count. Over time sciences were also prioritised as these help with the industry. Over time a hierarchy of subjects were created with sports and arts being at the bottom of the pile. This has remained in place for over 100 years and unless something drastic changes I don’t see it changing any time soon.
The purpose of this blog is not to simply bring this to your attention. It is have us all reflect on something that is even more amazing than this educational hierarchy.
In the year 2018 it is still deemed that a 16-18 year old should know what it is they want to do with the rest of their working life. Think about how much the world has changed in the last 30-40 years. Once upon a time a high percentage of people got married between 16-18. Men would leave school and go straight into trade and that would be it for the rest of their working life. Women would be expected to be stay at home mums. In this day and age we are in very different times. If our children go to university the chances are they will not even be in full-time employment by the time they are 21-22 and with masters and PHD’s becoming more mainstream some may not even be in employment until they are 25-26. Women, quite rightly are now able to do what they want to do now yet still have a long way to be treated equally to men in society.
It is estimated that if you have young children, by the time they are working, approximately 65% of the jobs they will have don’t even exist at the moment yet we are asking them to choose subjects at around 14-15 which will shape the academic path they take. In my opinion it is crazy to expect a 14 year old to know what they want to do with their career.
During the Christmas holidays I was speaking with a friend and we were talking about this subject and he mentioned he left school with no qualifications and the day he signed his leavers form his teacher turned to him and said “I’ll see you in the gutter son”. My friend commented he remembered specifically thinking how was it this person was so confident that he would be a failure in life just because he had not fitted into the hierarchy of subjects. Actually, he had a few choice words mixed in but I’ll keep this clean. He was what we’d call a ‘handsy’ person. Give him a problem and he would fix it. Challenge him and he would never let you down. Why was this not recognised at school? Simple, the subjects he could have excelled at were at the bottom of the pile. In our days it was called ‘technical’ and you’d get to do woodwork, metal work and technical drawing. However most of the time these subjects were used as an excuse to arse about. To go from math to a workshop where you could cut wood and heat metal was like being put in a play pen and therefore not taken seriously. My friend is now highly respected within the oil industry and amazing at his job.
I mentioned this happens a lot in tennis too. People write players off as not being very good and unfortunately this happens even younger than 16. I hear coaches remark on players as if they are useless and they can be as young as 8 or 9 years old. All because they don’t fit into a hierarchal tennis system. If they are not competing at a certain level by a certain age they are written off. Add the crazy ratings system where if you are a late starter you can’t even get into events because only the highest ratings get in and you can see why tennis can be a challenging place to have a level playing field. It works like this all the way through. The best ranked players get the most funding therefore they are able to create more opportunities to increase their ranking. This makes it very difficult for lower ranked or lesser experienced players to catch up. If your face doesn’t fit you don’t get the opportunity to show what you can do. Metaphorically, your names not down you’re not getting in.
In my opinion the easiest solution to above challenge is to create as many competitive opportunities as possible for all levels so we create situations where people can catch up and overtake those chosen few without requiring the funding. Let everyone just play the game and see who comes out on top. That is one of the brilliant things about tennis, you step on the court opposite a net and battle it out until one person prevails. The thought some are being denied this opportunity because they didn’t start until they were a couple of years older than their potential peers makes me feel sick to my stomach.
I also believe we need to create a flat surface structure rather than a tiered one. Everyone is now comfortable with using the word ‘journey’ in tennis and we used the metaphor of being on the ‘road’ to success but in the minds of many tennis players it isn’t a road it can feel like a bloody lift shaft with no lift. More and more companies are now adopting a flat surface structure so everyone feels on a level playing field. I believe tennis could benefit a lot from this.
You lose nothing by believing in the potential of people and there is a whole lot to be gained. However by creating a negative belief system you stagnate the development of most people. There are very few people who have the ‘f**k you, I’ll prove you wrong’ mind set.
So the next time you hear someone write someone off stick up for them. Don’t accept anyone telling you or anyone else what you are capable of. You can achieve great things if you find what it is you love to do.
So instead of having a ‘see you in the gutter’ mentality let’s all embrace a ‘I’ll see you on the show court’ mentality